BlackBerry’s new smartphone has sold better than expected according to the firm’s CEO.
BlackBerry, formerly Research In Motion, unveiled new smartphones last week after long delays allowed Apple, Samsung and others to build commanding leads in the industry and its shares fell 12% after Wednesday's launch despite positive reviews about the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
Black and white versions of the touchscreen Z10 were released in the UK last Thursday and will be launched in Canada today and Mr Heins said a substantial number of UK users are moving from other platforms to BlackBerry – an encouraging sign because they first targeted long-time BlackBerry users.
"It's beyond expectations," he said. "White is sold out already. The black is hard to stock up again. It's very encouraging. I won't share the number because I need to verify it, but we are getting a substantial number of users moving from other platforms to BlackBerry. That is an interesting data point."
RIM shares closed up 15% yesterday on initial reports of strong UK sales and after an analyst upgraded the stock.
But Thorsten Heins added that he is disappointed the Z10 will not be released in the United States until mid-March, due to the US and its phone carriers having a rigid testing system.
"We need to respect that. Am I a bit disappointed? Yeah, I would be lying saying no. But it is what it is and we're working with all our carrier partners to speed it up as much as we can."
The US has been one market in which BlackBerry has been struggling even as the company is doing well in many places overseas. According to research firm IDC, shipments of BlackBerry phones plummeted from 46% of the US market in 2008 to 2% in 2012.
Mr Heins, who a year ago replaced long-time executives who had presided over BlackBerry's fall, said he is confident that BlackBerry can become the third ecosystem behind Apple and phones running Google's Android operating system.
"We need to win back market share to be relevant," he said. "We have to be aggressive in the US market."
The Z10 is a break from tradition for BlackBerry, being their first phone to only have a touchscreen keyboard, like Apple's trend-setting iPhone and most phones running Android.
The Q10 will follow and will have a physical keyboard, a feature that has kept BlackBerry users loyal over the years because it makes typing easier and the firm said last week that the Q10 will start going on sale on some global carriers in April, but did not say when US carriers will have it.
Mr Heins told the AP it depends on the carriers, but said keyboard versions will probably be released eight to 10 weeks after a carrier releases the touch version meaning the Q10 keyboard version might not be released in the US until much later than mid-March or April.